LONG GROVE, Ill. – October 10, 2023 – Brian Carroll (The Hawk Country Club) won the 2023 E-Z-GO Illinois PGA Players Championship at Twin Orchard Country Club on Tuesday, October 10. Carroll carded a final round 3-under-par 69 on the Water Course to move up four spots and secure his second career Illinois PGA Major Championship in as many years.
“It was a tough couple of days of golf,” said Carroll. “We had two days in a row of colder weather with some wind. The greens were fantastic and scary fast at times. If you had a putt from above the hole you were just hoping you could stop it. Twin Orchard did an unbelievable job of getting the courses ready. Both courses were unbelievable this week.”
Carroll began his second round with a distant chance to win the Championship after Chris Green (Glenview Club) fired an impressive 7-under-par 63 on the Woods Course in round one. Carroll found himself seven strokes back of the lead to begin the final round.
“I started today pretty far back,” said Carroll. “Chris (Green) played a great round on day one. You would’ve never thought a 63 was possible given the conditions we had. When someone has that lead you just have to go out and play your game and make as many birdies as you can. He can run away with the Championship with that lead, but you just want to put pressure on him.”
Knowing he had to apply the pressure on Green, Carroll came out firing and birdied two of his first five holes to get to 2-under-par. Green was struggling to maintain his lead in the group behind Carroll, allowing Carroll to play his way back into contention for the Championship. Carroll finished his front with a great shot played into the ninth green that he spun back to about three feet. Carroll tapped in for birdie to get to 3-under-par and took sole possession of the lead at the Illinois PGA Players Championship with just nine holes to play.
Carroll spent the back nine fighting off many contenders as they pushed to capture the final Illinois PGA Major of the 2023 season. He made a bogey on the 10th hole after lipping out a par putt and fell back to 2-under-par. However, he made birdies on the 12th and 14th holes to get to 4-under-par. Carroll played the tricky par-5 12th hole perfectly, hitting less than driver off the tee to take the danger out of play and hitting his third shot below the hole to about 10 feet. The par-4 14th hole was drivable for the players today, but Carroll elected to lay up and stuck his approach shot to tap in range to move to 4-under-par.
The birdie on the 14th hole appeared to be the nail in the coffin for the rest of the field, but a few stumbles from Carroll opened the door up to the rest of the field. He suffered a three-putt bogey on the 15th hole. After his birdie putt trickled by the hole, Carroll’s par bid lipped out, horseshoeing around the cup, and Carroll was forced to settle for bogey. He then bogeyed the 17th hole after his approach shot found the greenside bunker. Carroll’s par putt lipped out again and he dropped back to 2-under-par.
A handful of players had a shot to join Carroll atop the leaderboard after the bogeys, but none had a better chance than Kyle Donovan (Oak Park Country Club). Donovan, who was in the final group, began the day trailing Green by six strokes. He played steadily throughout the day keeping Carroll within his distance. A 1-over-par front nine left Donovan at even-par for the tournament with nine holes to play. As Carroll was rolling in birdies on the back nine, Donovan remained steady and struck at the final moment. He birdied the 16th and 17th holes to join Carroll at 2-under-par atop the leaderboard.
Donovan’s first glimmer of hope came when he spun his approach shot to about a foot on the 16th hole and tapped in for birdie. Only trailing the leader by one stroke, Donovan attacked the flag again on the par-4 17th hole and poured in the putt to the tie the lead.
Up ahead, Carroll’s drive found the 18th fairway and he had about 150 yards into the green. He hit a great pitching wedge to about six feet behind the hole with his approach shot and rolled in the putt to regain the lead at 3-under-par. Donovan followed suit, hitting his approach shot beyond the hole to a similar spot that Carroll did. Donovan’s downhill birdie putt looked good the entire way, but broke off at the end and lipped out, securing the victory for Carroll.
“Coming down the last hole, I knew the guys were close,” said Carroll. “I hit a great drive. I didn’t think I could get all the way back to the hole location with the club I was hitting. I hit a great pitching wedge to about six feet behind the hole and rolled in the putt. I was fortunate to come away with the win. Kyle hit a great shot on 18 and just missed the putt to tie me. Overall, it was a fantastic event. I can’t thank the course enough, and our sponsors, especially our title sponsor E-Z-GO, and all our supporting sponsors Circa Sports, Wilson, Strackaline, Branded Bills, and Adidas. Our Section Partners make our tournament program what it is. We are one of the best Sections in the country and it is fun to compete in all these Illinois PGA events and compete for Championships. I’m happy to be able to knock off the second major on the list after so many runner-ups and hopefully can come through on the third major in the Match Play next year. For now, I’m happy to come away with the victory today and cap off a solid season.”
The likes of Roy Biancalana (The Hawk Country Club) and Kevin Flack (Mauh-Nah-Tee-See Country Club) also had opportunities to trim Carroll’s lead but were never able to generate enough momentum to overtake the leader. Biancalana finished with rounds of 68 and 73 for a two-day total of 3-under-par 141 and finished third. While Flack carded rounds of 70 and 72 for a tournament total of even-par 142 and finished fourth.
In addition to crowning the final Major Champion of the year, the Illinois PGA Bernardi Player of the Year was determined. Andy Mickelson (Mistwood Golf Club) secured his first career Illinois PGA Bernardi Player of the Year Award with a T5 finish at the Illinois PGA Players Championship. Mickelson competed in 11 Bernardi Player of the Year events in 2023. He finished inside the top 10 at eight of these 11 events, including a victory at the Illinois PGA Stroke Play #1 at Bull Valley Golf Club.
“Winning the Illinois PGA Player of the Year is a huge accomplishment for me,” said Mickelson. “I put a lot of time and effort into my game and it’s cool to see it pay off. I had a pretty good season. It seemed like I had a lot of top 10s to go along with the one win earlier in the year. But a couple of second place finishes and good runs at the majors helped put it over the edge. I’m really happy with how the season played out.”
The Illinois PGA Don Drasler Assistant Player of the Year was also determined at the Illinois PGA Players Championship. After a one-year hiatus, Flack reclaimed the Illinois PGA Don Drasler Assistant Player of the Year honor. In total, he played in nine Assistant Player of the Year events, he finished inside the top 10 at all nine events, including four victories and two runner-up finishes. This marks the second career Assistant Player of the Year honor for Flack.
The Illinois PGA Players Championship concluded the 2023 Illinois PGA Bernardi Player of the Year, and Don Drasler Player of the Year points events. The final point event of the 2023 season will take place next week at the Illinois PGA Senior Players Championship at Ruth Lake Country Club.
About the Illinois PGA/Illinois PGA Foundation
The Illinois Section of the PGA of America is a professional organization serving the men and women golf professionals in northern and central Illinois who are the recognized experts in growing, teaching and managing the game of golf. The Illinois PGA is responsible for the administration of competitive golf tournaments, educational opportunities, support programs and growth of the game initiatives. With over 840 members and apprentices, the Illinois PGA is one of the 41 regional Sections that comprise the PGA of America. The Illinois PGA Foundation focuses its community efforts on promoting the goodwill and growth of the game with an emphasis on activities that benefit youth. Foundation initiatives include: GolfWorks Illinois, Youth-based Scholarship Funds and the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame. For more information about the Illinois PGA and the Illinois PGA Foundation, please visit www.ipga.com and join us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
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Illinois PGA Communications